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Monday, November 5, 2012

Beware of the T-Rex

There isn’t a more fitting and unavoidable time to play catch-up than in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (albeit with electricity and Internet, so we are incredibly fortunate). One of the first things I did was open an email I had been avoiding: the video of our short presentations from our last Emerging Leaders session. No time (and no excuse) like the present, so I opened it.

With the inevitable cringe set on my face as I hit “Play” I was immediately struck by something – it was so much better than I thought! I then thought about my colleagues who had presented and I remembered being so impressed by the ease with which they commanded the front of the room, the relaxed use of their hand gestures, the intentional eye contact they made and the thoughtful insights they put forward. Were we all holding ourselves to the same double standard?

After we all presented we processed how it went. I remember saying, “I just want to do it again. I know I could do it much better!” I could see others mulling over their private self-critiques and wanting to take that second pass at it. That all being said, we all agreed, perhaps grudgingly, that we knew we probably did better than we thought.

Mark House, our guide and guru for day, could not have been more disarming and more engaging in the adrenaline-high session he ran before we all took our time in front of the camera. I remember thinking as the time for presentations grew nigh, “You could not ask for a safer environment to do this.”

And I was right. A few minutes after my presentation ended the chatter in my mind started to quiet. Later that evening I realized that I wanted to do it again not just because I thought I could do it better, but because I realized I actually like presenting. Through training and practice you can focus less on the mechanics of presenting and more on what you’re doing up there in the first place – making a case, presenting a new idea, sparking a dialogue, etc.

As I watched the video of my own presentation this morning I made note of the use of “t-rex hands” (when you plant your elbows at your sides and gesticulate like a tiny-armed dinosaur) and my personal habit of closing my eyes when I get nervous, but that aside I was happy with what I saw. More than that, I felt grateful for the opportunity to see myself as others do when I present because it will free my mind up the next time I am standing in front of a room. I now know that my “baseline” presentation skills are solid, so it’s just a matter of building upon an already strong foundation…and keeping my eyes open.